My laughter, over some comment from Drew, dies when Vivian comes down the hall with Bob draped over her shoulder. “Is he okay?”
Bob seems to catch himself leaning on a woman, his manliness kicks in, and he straightens, pulling away. “I’m fine, just had some trouble gaining my feet at first.”
Vivian turns her gorgeous green eyes on the man and says clearly, “You’re going to go up and lay down to rest on our living room couch for a bit, you will not remember being in the basement.”
“No problem,” Bob says and heads up the stairs.
“What’s going on?” I ask.
“Paul needed some alone time, and blood, after the scene in the cabin. He’s so young I was impressed he didn’t lick the walls when we were there.” The look on my face must be pure disgust, because she shrugs and continues. “Hey, don’t judge. I bet when you were a new wolf you needed help to make sure you didn’t eat your neighbors.”
Her observation may be true, but I don’t have to admit it. She smiles one of her all-knowing smiles at me. I can’t help but wonder if she’s reading my mind right now and of course, already knows just how bad I was when I first changed. Sneaky bitch.
She walks over to Drew’s position near the map and glances down.
I cringe inwardly, waiting for her anger. I never know what she knows. She doesn’t look my way, so it’s a safe bet she wasn’t in my head. This mind-to-mind shit is freaking me out a bit. I need to learn how to build some walls to protect my thoughts all the time.
Maybe the doctor’s daughter, Diane, will be able to give me some advice. I heard she practices some of the local witchcraft, among other things. I can’t deny the existence of magic, even if I can’t see it like I can shifters and vampires. Hell, when I was in college I would have said all of it was crap.
“You’re having way too much fun with the map aren’t you, Drew?” Vivian asks while reaching out to pick up an eraser with the name Stan scrawled across it.
“I prefer to keep track of them using a real live visual, rather than the computer screen,” he says. “And I thought this was better than the little Army soldiers Asa suggested.”
“Now that would have been a hoot,” I say.
Vivian tilts her head my way, looking at me where I’m leaning against the wall on the far right of the L-shaped desk. She stares and really sees me for the first time since she came into the room. Before I can blink, she’s in front of me, tilting my face to the side.
“What happened to you?” Her voice sounds calm. A deathly type of calm, if you ask me.
“Umm... I had an altercation with Emiko.”
I glance away, trying to break my face from her hold, but she turns me back, forcing me to stare directly into her eyes. “Tell me everything.”
Her beauty excites and scares me all at the same time—it’s always the same. I’m torn between wanting to lick her head to toe, beg at her feet for love, or run screaming into the woods. Not a good combination most days, but one I’m addicted to nonetheless. She just simply is.
“I broke from the pack after a few hours. I’d had enough of running with them and knew I should be heading back to talk to you about investigating Melvyn’s death. I sensed I was being followed back from the west end of the property and detoured to the bowling alley to change back in case I needed to confront my tail.” I take a deep breath and relax into her hold. Her grip loosens until she’s gently caressing the side of my face, like a lover after a sweaty romp. “It was Emiko and she attacked me. She was determined to have some wolf blood and I couldn’t get her to see reason.”
Vivian releases my face, leaning in to sniff near my neck. The lack of emotion on her face only confirms what I knew in the bowling alley: if Emiko had bitten me, she’d be dead with no one ever knowing the truth behind the allegations in Argentina or who may be behind the orchestration on the Tribunal. Light hands rest on my shoulders before moving slowly to my back.
Vivian presses herself to me in a soft hug, barely skimming the front of my body while leaning in to whisper, “You are mine.” The possessiveness in her tone is surprising; this is a side she doesn’t normally share with me. “If she, or anyone, touches you—I will kill them. You know that, right?”
The hair on my body stands at attention, the nearness of the object of my desire is almost more than I can handle. I want so badly to wrap myself around her and rub in her scent. But I know I can’t. She may be my pack, but she is not my lover. Lingering traces of Rafe cling to her skin.
A shaky breath leaves me as she steps back, taking her delectable fragrance away as well. “Yes, I know.”
Her head tilts curiously to the side, “How did you elude her?”
Her features sharpen a bit and close down at his name. I wonder what brought the reaction on. “Go on.”
“He came in when she had me pinned, and trust me, no matter what I said, she wasn’t going to stop. It was like she didn’t hear or care.”
“She could have an old addiction she’s recovering from. It happens a lot.”
Which I knew well, it was one of the reasons I steered clear of the main building as much as possible.
“Does this put her back on as a suspect with Melvyn?” Drew asks.
“I don’t think so, but we’ll discuss it with the whole group.” Another thought occurs to her and she looks me square in the face again. “Are you telling me Asa beat her in a fair fight?”
“Umm... no, not exactly.”
She whirls and turns away, moving to sit in a chair in front of the monitors. Raising one elegant eyebrow, she silently urges me to keep going.
“They fought. He told me to run while he took a beating. I hid, in case things went south for him and he needed help, but she had other ideas.” I break away from her gaze and look over to Drew. He’s listening, but not jumping in, which is good. “She toyed with him for a while and then drank from him instead.”
My look away must have been my “tell” because she doesn’t let the subject drop. “You’re not sharing everything.”
Know-it-all vamp. Damn, is she in my head again? I sneak a look back at her, but again, her expression reveals nothing. “She forced him to have sex, but after the first minute or so I don’t think it was forced anymore.”
Her eyes seem to darken to the deep green of pines, “Rape is rape. Men can’t help their body’s natural reaction to stimulus.” She crushes the chair arms in a tight grip; the plastic gives in a resounding crack before she lets go. “Where is he now?”
“Rafe gave him an assignment to track her on the property and he’s following through.”
She grunts and stands. “Fine. I’ll talk to him later.” Vivian begins her customary angry pacing back and forth in the tight area. It’s one of the signs she’s trying to regain control of her inner demons and if it works, then hey, I sure as hell don’t plan to stop her.
“We need to get a handle on the slaughter of the loner wolf in cabin two before the hunters come back to refuel. They’ll sniff out his death, as well as Bebe’s, on their return and I bet their tempers will be high.” She stops to pin me with her gaze. “Jon, you need to head out and investigate the area surrounding the cabin and the hotel before they tromp through all the scent trails, okay?”
“Your wish is my command, oh curvy-sexy-one.”
“Drew—you rustle up the locations of the rest of the hunters via the GPS in their phones and call me with a report.”
“Yes, master,” Drew replies. Kind of freaks me out when he calls her that. I shoot him a look that asks what are you, a dork and he ignores me with dead eyes.
She storms up the stairs, almost flying in her pent up rage and energy.
“Does she scare you sometimes, too?” I ask.
He shakes his head and scoots his chair back to the monitors, pushing the broken one out of his way. “Why do you think I call her ‘master’? For shits-n-giggles?”
Can’t argue with that, so I gather my hunting coat and head up to the apartment. Vivian is already gone; the scent of her lingers in the kitchen by the table where Rafe sits alone. “Can I change here and you’ll open the door for me? Viv wants me scouting for clues and my wolf nose will do the job better.”
“Sure thing, man. You can use the office.”
I turn to the broken door in the hall, “What happened here?”
“Nothing you need to worry about.”
Fucking prick. “Okay.”
I head in and strip, tossing my clothes on the leather couch. With a flexing of will I call my beast. A spine-tingling rush of energy starts the change rolling over me, bowing my spine, forcing me to the floor. Fur ripples across my skin and the pain of my bones realigning feels excruciating, but the process ends quick.
The recent sexual activities in the room from the married couple come crashing into my sensitive senses with the subtlety of a beer burp at frat party. Vivian’s essence is heavy in the room, its perfection marred only by the tainted human she’s married to. I lower my nose to the Persian rug and my lip peels back from my teeth in derision.
She should be mine!
A growl sounds deep in my chest, rumbling to the surface and breaking the silence in the room. The thought comes from my wolf half, and I struggle to maintain control and push the basic alpha tendencies deep inside. They don’t apply here and my inner wolf still has trouble accepting it.
Some day soon he’ll run free with his mate, but that mate will never be the sultry redheaded vamp.
I pad quietly into the kitchen and use every ounce of strength within me not to bite the son-of-a-bitch at the table. On a human level he’s okay enough, but he isn’t a wolf and my instincts call out that he shouldn’t be a pack member and above me in rank as well. The desire to make him submit and show me his throat in surrender almost overwhelms my inner need to follow Vivian’s requests... but in the end, I am victor and I don’t spare Rafe a second glance as I head for the door.
“That was quick. Let me get the door.”
I step back as the large man opens the exit for me, bolting past him and away from the smells of their recent lovemaking as fast as I can. The blackness of the night isn’t nearly as deep here as it is out at my cabin. The landscaping lights show the first glimmer of an artificial dawn, and decorative twinkling lights festoon the pergolas and shrubbery throughout the hot tub area.
My long legs and four paws eat the distance up to cabin number two, and in a moment, I’m standing outside where the seethe gathered a few hours ago. After a few minutes, I pick out an undead scent that doesn’t match anyone in our group who came to investigate. Following the trail, I’m led back the way I came.
A meandering path leads me to one of the tucked away spas, farthest from any of the doors in the west and north wing, and used the least by guests and employees for this reason. The trail ends at the tub itself. Whether the killer jumped in to wash the blood off or not can’t be determined until the lid is lifted and the water tested.
Do I change here and check by lifting the lid in my human form or do I go inside, change and come back fully clothed to do the job? Nose to the ground, I decide to look for the trail leading from the tub back to one of the doors before deciding.
A bromine-covered vampire scent leads away from the hot tub and to an exit at the end of the north wing. The entrance requires a key card to get in. The vampire must not have had one, because the scent leads around the north wing, through the stone garden to the pool entrance in the east wing—the entrance where the lock has been disabled because it’s set up as the designated spot for the hunters to enter and exit through.
I’ve sensed this vampire before, but I can’t place a face to him or her. You can bet I’ll know it when I run into them again. Nose to the ground, I follow the fading trail.
A blur of motion through the two-story insulated glass of the pool wing draws my eye. A flash of copper hair and toned white arms cut the surface of the water in a one-man race down the length of the pool. Vivian looks to be burning off some of her anger, which is a good thing, I know.
Her hourglass body rises from the surface at the end of the lap to stand next to the water. She reaches for a towel and I have a moment to admire her naked form before she covers it with a towel. A whine escapes me, the wolf wanting to be near his pack-mate and making himself heard. Her head whips around to the glass wall and I bolt into the darkness.
Not wanting to face Rafe again, or the sex scene in the office, I head back to my cabin to get fresh clothes. There is much to report to the loving couple.